Harden set to pair with Westbrook and chase title in Houston

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden isn’t listening to anyone who is worried about how things will work in Houston with the addition of Russell Westbrook.

The Beard is convinced things will be great and believes the move is not only good for the Rockets as they chase their first title since 1995, but that it also is a positive change for Westbrook after being the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder for more than a decade.

“He just comes to entirely different chapter in his life to go out there and just play and doesn’t have to go out there and worry about the pressure of carrying an entire organisation,” Harden said. “I’m excited for him.”

Questions about how these two ball-dominate guards will coexist in Houston have swirled since the Rockets shipped Chris Paul to Oklahoma City this summer in exchange for Westbrook. Only time will tell if the pairing of these two MVPs will be the push this team needs to finally win another championship.

Until then everyone in the organisation insists that it will work because Harden and Westbrook want it to.

“If Russ got it going and Russ is on one of those games we’ve all seen before, guess what I’m going to do? Sit back and watch the show,” Harden said leaning back and crossing his arms.

Westbrook also insisted that he isn’t the least bit worried about how they’ll mesh playing together for the first time since Harden was traded from the Thunder after the 2012 season. Westbrook, an eight-time All-Star, listed all the ways he can impact the game aside from scoring, reeling off all his skills from rebounding to being a leader.

“When it comes to me and James playing together, who’s going to have the ball, who’s not going to have the ball, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “My goal is to win a championship so whatever it takes to do that that’s what I’m going to do.”

Coach Mike D’Antoni was quick to point out that not too long ago there were similar concerns about how Harden would adjust to playing with Paul. Those worries soon dissipated when Houston won a franchise-record 65 regular-season games and reached the Western Conference finals in Paul’s first season with the team in 2017-18.

“It works itself out,” D’Antoni said. “You try not to over-coach it. We need Russell to be Russell. We don’t want to change him. He’s an MVP.”

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, the billionaire restaurant and casino owner, recalled seeing Westbrook play against the Rockets last season.

“I watched Oklahoma kick our butts twice last year and there was this guy that would get a rebound and have it dunked on the other side when our guys started to run down the court,” Fertitta said. “And I thought what would it be like to have this guy on our team?”

Now that he is, Fertitta has high expectations for what he and Harden can do this season.

“I know I’m really excited, so I hope they don’t let me down,” he said.

Some things to know about the Rockets as they start camp.

The Rockets signed veteran center Tyson Chandler this summer in hopes of improving their rebounding and to take some of the load off starter Clint Capela. Chandler, who’ll turn 37 next week, was the second overall pick in the 2001 draft.

When Chandler started his career his goal was to play for 10 years and he never dreamed he’d play nearly twice that long.